Photo Courtesy of Def Jam Records
Story by Shorin Estell / Contributing Writer and Steve Barnum / Staff Writer
Nearly four years after releasing “Dual – EP,” U.K. singer-songwriter Sampha released his debut album, “Process,” late Thursday night. While many music aficionados may be familiar with his work — including songwriting, producing and features with artists like Beyoncé and Drake — “Process” may be others first introduction to the artist. Two writers, one a Sampha fan and the other a newcomer to his interesting style, shared their personal thoughts on the album.
First up is Shorin, who’s no stranger to Sampha’s music:
“Process” carries on the legacy of “Dual” and delivers Sampha’s delicate vocals over quirky electronic beats.
This album is the type of music that you listen to when you’re looking to unwind and relax after a long day’s work. It’s definitely something that you can put on replay and listen to all day.
One might notice a car crash motif throughout the album.
Took the brake pads out the car
And I flew
Smashed this window in my heart
And I blamed you.”
Comparing love to a car crash is brilliant. Love just happens, and you never know where it’ll take you or what’s going to happen.
And I crash the whip
And this tree flew through me
Arms out, you pull me
And wipe my wounds clean.”
(Blood On Me)
Sampha seems to be talking about a lost love in the two songs, but one depicts the love saving him, and the other hurting him.
Comparing love to a car crash is brilliant. Love just happens, and you never know where it’ll take you or what’s going to happen. You have probably heard Sampha’s voice on many well-known songs, and didn’t even know it. He’s written, produced and been featured on hits that include Beyoncé’s “Mine,” Drake’s “Too Much,” Solange’s “Don’t Touch My Hair” and Frank Ocean’s “Alabama.”
I highly recommend listening to “Procees,” as well as the rest of Sampha’s discography.
Next up is Steve, who had hardly even heard of Sampha:
The project is a rollercoaster ride through and through, but it isn’t the fun kind. “Process” has its ups and downs, but a few turns make you want to get off the ride.
Half of the tracklist is perfect for a calm, rainy morning, drinking a hot cup of coffee and pondering the direction of one’s life. The other half is almost overpowered by energetic sounds, drowning out Sampha’s Bon Iver-like voice.
The album starts off with “Plastic 100° C,” and how much is put into the instrumentals is off-putting. The song is an instant “next” button pusher. The track song melts away at the end into “Blood on Me,” which is arguably the best song on the album. It has so much raw emotion, energy, and instrumental work. None of these elements drown out Sampha’s voice, but rather, serve to amplify it. Near the end of the song, the listener is taken away with flowing instrumentals that bring him or her back in full circle to the emotional chorus.
The song after that is “Kora Sings,” another off-putting cut. Once again, the instrumental is far too busy, and it detracts from Sampha’s voice. Imagine someone trying to talk to you with their inside-voice while simultaneously squeezing an air horn.
Per Spin magazine, “Sampha’s mother, Binty Sisay, passed away from cancer in 2015, and his father was taken by the same cruelty in 1998.” With lyrics like, “They said that it’s her time, no tears in sight, I kept the feelings close and you took hold of me and never, never, never let me go,” one can clearly hear the pain that must still be inside Sampha to this day.
“Take Me Inside” and “Reverse Faults” are two songs for the broken-hearted. The first is for those trying to seek solace with a lost love, while the latter leaves one blaming themselves entirely for ruining a perfect relationship. Both are perfect for Valentine’s Day.
“Under” is a loss. So much is going on within the song, and the repeated “under” hook at the start and end of the song is pretty annoying. The song makes an effort to redeem itself halfway through, but it ultimately disappoints.
Redemption comes as soon as “Under” ends and “Timmy’s Prayer” begins. With a soft beat and strong lyrics accompanying Sampha’s powerful vocals, this one is definitely a jam.
“Incomplete Kisses” is another good standout. It’s very upbeat, and the powerful meaning is hidden within the lyrics.
With lyrics like, “Don’t let your heart hide your story, ’cause if you deny others inside it gets harder to move along, Moving on,” the song clearly deals with loss and the difficulties in trying to move on.
The last song “What Shouldn’t I Be” concludes the album on a soft note. The whole album contains images and descriptions of Sampha’s feelings of loneliness and detachment, but this final song brings everything together by proclaiming, “you can always come home.”